UK House of Lords supports creation of terrorism commissioner

[JURIST] The UK House of Lords [official website] on Monday approved a measure to create an independent commissioner for terrorism suspects, which must now go before the House of Commons. The Lords voted 145-103 on an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill [text, PDF; legislative materials] offered by Lord Lloyd, over the objections of members of the Labour Party [party website] of Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website]. The commissioner would assist judges when the government seeks to extend the pre-charge detention of terrorism suspects beyond the current 28-day limit, with the aid of classified information not available to the defendant and his lawyer. Opponents argued [BBC report] that the posts would be costly to operate and would create unnecessary impediments to prosecution.

The use of secret evidence in terrorism cases has created conflict in the UK. In June, a panel of nine UK Law Lords [official website] decided [JURIST report] that the use of secret evidence to impose controversial control orders to detain terrorism suspects violates the European Convention on Human Rights [text], ordering the cases of three suspects to be reheard. In February, a UK counter-terrorism official said that some suspects living under control orders have managed to maintain contact [JURIST report] with terrorist organizations. The UK Law Lords ruled [JURIST report] in a series of decisions in October that the government can continue to impose control orders on terror suspects in lieu of detention, but said that some elements of the orders issued under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 violate human rights.



 

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